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Samsonite Make Your Case: Biggest concern four games in?

20191003-MakeYourCase-PDC

The Patriots are off to a 4-0 start to the 2019 season, riding a dominant defense on a historic pace, but it hasn’t been perfect elsewhere on the roster. The offense and special teams have had their struggles despite the flawless record. This isn’t unheard of, as each season has its ups and downs and areas of strengths and weaknesses that need to be found and addressed.

Still, this season’s challenges are unique and many of the faces that brought three Super Bowl titles in the last five seasons are now gone. The offense is ranked ninth overall in DVOA, including 21st in rushing DVOA, while the special teams are ranked 27th overall in DVOA. They’re just 13th on third down offensively, and despite being fifth in points-per-game, they’ve beaten up on two teams that still have yet to win a game.

Then this week they lost their long-time kicker Stephen Gostkowski, adding another layer of questions to the special teams units. Despite the strong start from rookie punter Jake Bailey the team continues to look for help in the area, bringing back Jordan Richards.

There’s definitely plenty of room for improvement across the board and the team is working hard to correct those things, but is there a fatal flaw with this Patriots team that has already reared its head?

This week’s Samsonite Make Your Case question is what is the Patriots biggest concern after four games?

Patriots.com’s Mike Dussault says…

The Blockers

It all starts up front on offense and the faces are far different than they were last year when physically dominant players like Trent Brown and Rob Gronkowski were leading the blocking charge. Add in the losses of Dwayne Allen and David Andrews and this is nowhere near what the Patriots had last year. There’s no one better than Dante Scarnecchia, but does he have the personnel to get the job done this season?

Adding Ben Watson back into the mix will certainly boost a tight end group that has had to lean on second-year player Ryan Izzo and Matt LaCosse, who’s been battling an ankle injury all season. Isaiah Wynn’s possible return from Injured Reserve after a turf toe injury would also add a boost in athleticism, but even in a perfect scenario with those players in the mix it’s hard to see this being the same kind of dominant group that could consistently win at the line of scrimmage against the toughest of defenses.

Patriots.com’s Paul Perillo says...

Wide receiver

There’s a reason Bill Belichick brought Antonio Brown in and that’s because he wasn’t sure the offense had enough weapons in the passing game. That’s the same reason Tom Brady seemed a bit disappointed after losing Brown.

Assuming everyone stays healthy for the remainder of the season, which is a huge assumption, the offense probably has enough options to remain productive. Julian Edelman is obviously the key to that, but Josh Gordon and Phillip Dorsett fall into that category as well.

Without those options I’m not sure Brady has enough to work with against the quality teams he’ll be facing once the playoffs begin. Edelman has proven he can be productive regardless of the defense he faces. The same cannot be said of Gordon, Dorsett and the rest of the wideouts. Brady could use another veteran who he can turn to against tough man coverage, and that’s one reason the trade rumors that have circulated in recent weeks are so intriguing.

Brady is good enough to get by most weeks, and with the deep backfield to help out the wins should pile up. But down the road in January, when things get tight, it would be nice to give Edelman some help.

-PP

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